The results are in: The REACH Health 2018 U.S. Telemedicine Industry Benchmark survey has been released, and its findings are illuminating. Despite the obstacles presented by lack of reimbursement, parity, and electronic medical record (EMR) integration, telemedicine has been growing by leaps and bounds, especially as enterprise telemedicine programs rather than departmental endeavors as they originally began. And this enterprise-based strategy has been paying off—big time.
The survey, taken among 411 healthcare professionals in December 2017 and January 2018, shows that almost half of the responding institutions now use an enterprise-wide telemedicine platform, a significant jump from the 39 percent reported last year. Department-based programs have dropped from 36 percent in 2017 to 26 percent in 2018. The switch indicates growing interest among healthcare providers to create a centralized telemedicine department rather than developing small programs that are managed in different locations and by different people.
Interestingly, when REACH Health compared these strategies with their achievements, they found that the organizations with an enterprise approach were 30 percent more likely to be successful than organizations using a departmental method. “Success,” as defined by the survey respondents, was defined more frequently as patient-centered outcomes and less often as cost-based outcomes.
The survey also found that telemedicine programs that were classified as high priority by their organizations—when it comes to patient engagement or access to care—were nearly 50 percent more likely to experience success than programs deemed low priority.
These findings suggest that healthcare executives are focusing more on patient care and access than on reducing costs. That’s fortunate for patients, considering the insufficient public and private payer reimbursement and inadequate telemedicine parity laws. In addition, the choppy workflow between telemedicine programs and EMR platforms, often caused by lack of integration, frequently results in awkward, time-consuming post-visit documentation in the medical record, which commonly lacks discrete fields that correspond to telemedicine.
Despite these hurdles, 70 percent of survey respondents rated telemedicine as a top or high priority, and most of the organizations plan to maintain or increase their investments in their telemedicine programs.
The growth and acceptance of telemedicine may not be smooth, but it’s certainly steady. It’s only a matter of time before reimbursement, parity, and EMR integration catch up.